The House of Representatives Committee on Steel Development has asked the Federal Government to take steps to halt the rot in the multi-billion naira Ajaokuta Steel Company by considering the injection of fresh N120 billion to resuscitate operations at the plant.
The Committee said during a visit to the Ministry of Steel Development Monday that the financial lifeline would help bring the plant back to life, pointing out that it was no longer economically wise for the country to continue to watch its investments in the company and other allied companies waste away at a time steel had become a major component of a strong infrastructure and technological base for sustainable development.
Chairman of the Committee, Saddique Mohammed, decried the decay in the country’s steel sector, arguing that rather than allow the investments in the various plants to be totally lost due to the inability of their buyers to inject the needed financial lifeline, government should have a rethink and inject fresh funds to reactivate the plants and bring them to a state that would make them attractive to investors.
“We want to see how we can work together with the ministry to move the steel industry forward,” Mr. Mohammed said. “We feel everybody should be interested in the development of the sector given the strategic role steel and other related metals play in national development. We cannot afford to wait and allow billions of naira invested in these companies go to waste.
“We are of the position that Ajaokuta Steel Company and Itakpe should have been completed before they were concessioned or sold to investors. This is in line with the previous motions of the National Assembly that the companies be sold to private investors. Unfortunately, after many years of their privatization, the entities are still in very bad state without any indications of plans to revitalize them.”
He noted that the Ajaokuta Steel in particular and other companies are still in the state previous administrations left them, pointing out that in the absence of a viable steel sector, the country could not claim to be on the path to sustainable development.
“If government is thinking about getting more refineries in place, we should not think committing just N120 billion to Ajaokuta Steel Company would not be out of place”, the committee chairman added.
He also called for legal and regulatory frameworks that would help the country in optimising its investments in privatised entities, adding that there should be a level of government involvement in privatised firms, such that it would continue to ensure that national interest is not sacrificed on the platter of privatisation as it is being currently witnessed.
The Minister for Steel Development, Mohammed Sanda, in his remarks, solicited the support of the National Assembly, through appropriate laws, that would help the ministry to exercise some control over its privatised agencies in order to ensure that the overall national development objectives are achieved.